S (Scripture): Acts 15:6 Both the apostles and the elders met together to deliberate about this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God chose me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between them and us, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are.”
O (Observation): Known as the Jerusalem Council, the apostles and elders gathered to determine if the Gentiles should subscribe to the Jewish laws as part of their call to be followers of Christ. Various opinions about this issue were held by different groups of Jesus-followers. Those who were Jews and become followers of Jesus thought it was only fair that Gentile believers also hold the Jewish customs. That somehow, this would make things more fair.
Peter, instead, shared the fact that laws or no laws, being save by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is what saves them all – Jew and Gentile alike. Peter did not advocate total chaos, he simply wanted to keep the main thing the main thing: faith in Jesus Christ is the only requirement for salvation…if one is given the Holy Spirit to have that faith, that is the only requirement.
In sum: Peter says we are saved by grace through faith as a gift of the Holy Spirit.
A (Application): Sounds like our Lutheran mantra: saved by grace through faith.
If this is our belief (and it is for me) then anyone can believe in Jesus Christ, for stopping the work of the Holy Spirit is nigh impossible.
What ramifications does this belief have?
This belief means that the death penalty is not a good idea, because someone might be moved by the Spirit, and forgiveness or even reconciliation might occur.
This belief means that every child given up for adoption has the potential to be moved by the Spirit to do great work in this world.
This belief means that our new president might be moved to action that could lift up others (or if not, inspire actions of the populace to show care for our neighbors who fear or are hurt by this administration).
This belief means that while we might want to vehemently disagree with one another, we are all still called to respect one another, for the Spirit may be at work in the midst of that difficulty, birthing something new or extraordinary.
These ideas may seem unrelated and random, but so is (in my experience) the work of the Spirit. Seemingly random, yet moving us to the overarching movement of God’s reign and God’s movement. God continually pulls us into God’s narrative of salvation for the whole world (maybe even towards those with whom we disagree : ). Yikes!
P (Prayer): Lord, keep our hearts and minds open to the work of your Spirit. Amen.